The State of… Lower Princess (Part 1 of 3)

Princess Street, lower Princess, downtown core, vacant stores, opening soon, Kingston, OntarioTwo years ago Kingstonist published a three part series that explored the ever-changing landscape of downtown storefronts, with a specific focus on new business and vacant commercial real estate.  Back in 2009, high taxes, the recession, aging infrastructure as well as competition from new big box outlets were being blamed for the demise of Downtown Kingston Sports and S&R. The loss of these two long-standing fixtures has left a massive hole in the heart of downtown Kingston, while the ongoing shuffle game involving businesses relocating up and down the block also helps keep the vacancy rate up.  Join Kingstonist as we set out to document the vacancies, relocations and additions that have taken place since our 2009 snapshot. In this premier episode, we’ll travel from the very bottom of Princess Street to the Division Street intersection.

Closures and Vacancies

  • Downtown Kingston Sports, 121 Princess Street: 2-storys of sporting goods, Vespas and bikes vanished in 2009. Recently the building got a massive face lift. Looking forward to what the next tenants will offer.
  • The Book Shop, 122 Princess: this storefront has been vacant since our last trip down Princess Street.  While basement properties don’t have the highest visibility, hopefully someone sees potential here.
  • Fabricland, 124 Princess Street: this substantial piece of real estate has sat vacant since 2009.  Thankfully though, it has been randomly used for a variety of community art exhibits.
  • Made 4 You, 126 Princess Street: this purveyor of handmade clothing, knits, pottery, photography and other local treasures relocated to the Sustainability Centre. Sadly both have vanished.
  • The Rocking Horse, 160 Princess Street: toys and such are now being sold at their new location.
  • Serves You Right, 164 Princess Street: although my first visit was mediocre, we came to know this place as a decent little breakfast and lunch spot with really foggy windows.  Set for Peculiar Mrs. Perkins!
  • Dansk, 168 Princess Street: Dansk’s factory outlet closed about two years ago. If I was a betting man, I would put big money on the adjacent 160, 164 and 168 Princess becoming something truly great.
  • Trailhead, 272 Princess Street: if memory serves me correctly, this is the second time Trailhead has moved in the past decade.  This footprint here is big, and ripe for retail.
  • Syd Silvers, 273 Princess Street: what a way to ruin the prom of all those star-crossed lovers. Give this property enough time and it too will be transformed into a Starbucks.
  • Some Health Store, 337 Princess Street:  formerly CD Exchange, then transformed into a place specializing in vitamins, supplements, colon hydrotherapy and other heath-related items.
  • Poutine Place, 341 Princess Street: facing stiff competition from Smoke’s, Five Guys, Harper’s and other long-standing local poutineries, this place didn’t get past their first year on the food scene.
  • Madeline, 425 Princess Street: this brightly coloured sugar shack was a fixture on the corner of Princess and Division for quite a while. Dentists and sweet tooths wept when it closed. Smokers too.

Additions, Relocations and Coming Soon

  • Smith Robinson Building, 27 Princess Street: this 3-storey building was almost purchased by the City of Kingston.  In the near future it will house Milestones and possibly the Int’l Hockey Hall of Fame?
  • Harper’s, 93 Princess Street: if you haven’t been to Harper’s Burger Bar, you’re truly missing out.  From the same folks who brought you le Chien Noir and Atomica, you’ll love these local burgers.
  • Willow, 112 Princess Street: formerly located across the street from the Grand Theatre, Willow made a big move down Princess Street. Not much for me here, but my Mother in law is a big fan.
  • p’lovers, 123 Princess Street: I was pretty impressed with this eco-friendly store, but not enough to make a purchase.  Can Kingston sustain environmentally-oriented retail?
  • Felicity and Fritz, 127 Princess Street: almost certain this retailer of shoes, handbags and accessories was located somewhere else back in 2009. Let’s hope they’re here to stay for a few more years.
  • Walton Boxing Gym, 128 Princess Street: a new addition to downtown Kingston, adding much needed life to the vacant surroundings including the Fabricland, The Book Shop and Made 4 You.
  • Overstocks, 169 Princess Street: brand name labels with deeply discounted prices. They never seem to have my size, and to be honest, I don’t find the merchandise to be top quality.
  • CDK Family Medicine and Walk-In Clinic, 175 Princess Street: great location for accessible health care.
  • Monkeybar, 177 Princess Street: I wept when Asha Sushi closed their doors.  My eyes nearly fell out when the minds behind Monkeybar painted the storefront bright yellow. I hear they have bottle service.
  • Five Guys, 185 Princess Street: The second of three new burger joints that have opened up downtown over the past few years.  Not as fancy as the others, but Five Guys is just as delicious and expensive.
  • The Rocking Horse, 193 Princess Street: the former Sustainability Centre didn’t sit vacant for long, as it is now filled with the relocated toys and educational wares of The Rocking Horse.
  • Unknown, 217 Princess Street: I’m not totally sure that this is a new business.  It seems like they’re still selling sunglasses but the signage screams cell phone repairs and unlocking services.
  • David’s Tea, 225 Princess Street: this address was formerly home to Willow, and now the proud home to David’s Tea.  This Montreal/Toronto-based franchise is pretty a good fit for the block.
  • T-Shirt Gallery, 238 Princess Street: if you like cheesy slogans on your tees, look no further.
  • Starbucks, 251 Princess Street: I could not understand why someone would think that it’s a good idea to open a Starbucks two doors down from another.  Surprisingly, this place is always packed.
  • Spin, xx Princess Street: For as long as I can remember it was The Running Room.  Freshly renovated, this gorgeous building will soon be home to Spin, which is some sort of dessert bar. But for how long.
  • Trailhead, 262 Princess Street: while I was saddened by the retirement of the owner of Modern Furniture, he deserved it.  Trailhead also deserved a great space, while their new location is a gem.
  • Jreck Subs, 269 Princess Street: here’s an idea, let’s open a sub shop in the same location as a sub shop that went out of business.  Jreck Subs opened last summer, but I doubt they’ll make it a year.
  • Alibi, 295 Princess Street: this place literally popped up overnight.  With minimal signage, it’s easy to miss. We’ve heard various versions about how this place came to be, but none of the stories check out.
  • The Works, 298 Princes Street: the most recent, and current go-to place for burgers in Kingston seems to be The Works.  With over 100 burger combos, the only complaint is deciding what to order.
  • The Wine Rack, 318 Princess Street: when we noticed that The Wine Rack was popping their cork, we thought it was a no-brainer. It definitely saves some students a walk down to Barrack and King.
  • Ali Baba Kabab, 320 Princess Street: Ali Baba Kabab and I didn’t necessarily get off on the right foot, but we’ve been back since and they’re getting much better. Certainly hope that they’re here to stay.
  • Mom’s, 339 Princess Street: the coming soon wallpaper in the storefront has been up for months.  Will this fried/roasted? chicken shop place open, and better yet, will it last longer than it’s predecessor?
  • Canada Computers, 350 Princess Street: the last business playing the shuffle game in part one.  Their previous location is now home to The Works!  With the closure of KCP, Canada Computers is it.
  • Tommy’s, 377 Princess Street: when Tommy decided to follow his dreams with a late-night eatery and bar in the Hub, Kingston gained something really special.  I still need to try their million $ sandwich.
Interested in learning more about the state of downtown Kingston? Check out part two of this series, which focuses on Downtown Sidestreets in 2011. Want even more? The 2015 edition of this series is now available.


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